As my record book’s crinkled pages attest it was wet when we set out. Our first birds were a party of four male Blackbirds at a standoff atop a TV aerial. Nothing delicate could survive the roaring, white topped water as it dived under the bridge, although a Mallard pair had found sanctuary in a small inlet and a Moorhen not much farther off. Up the south bank of the Frome we eight marched where we counted one then two Jays and noticed the Tit families were making spring-like noises. Across the recreation ground towards the Oldbury estate were nine Carrion Crows on the ground feeding and a Song Thrush in full song. Once into the estate Black-headed Gulls – up to 60 at one time with a couple of Common Gulls – adorned the football pitches and posts. The hedges of Perrymans Close had many House Sparrows, ten counted but more were close by, with a Raven seen going fast over the pavilion heading NNW. At coffee more Jays were seen and then as we descended back towards the Frome a distant Green Woodpecker was heard and a fine male Great Spotted Woodpecker showed well. Little new was seen along the bank as we returned although one spot was alive with Long-tailed Tits mixed with Coal, Blue, and Great Tits and not far away a pair of Grey Heron roosted in the trees. Our final species was a Buzzard, stationary at first while he eyed us up before departing over the ridge. We were then back to the start with a count of 32 species.
We were lucky to enjoy a fine bright morning for our walk from Heron’s Green at CVL over Breach Hill past Ubley Hatchery and back along the lanes to CVL, a total distance of nearly five miles. The views over Blagdon Lake were lovely and the mixed habitats of water, fields and woods made for a good range of birds. All the usual ducks, swans, Coots, herons and Little Egrets were at Heron’s Green. As we climbed the hills the hedges and fields held Woodpigeons, Crows, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Robins and, at the farms, Pied Wagtails and Sparrows. We saw one Sparrow taking a long piece of grass into a hole in the wall – a bit early for nesting? We heard a Raven croaking and saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly to a tree. There were a few Redwings and Fieldfares about and at one wooded stop we had Treecreeper and two Goldcrests along with Long-tailed Tits. At Ubley Hatchery there was another Treecreeper and a Coal Tit with good views of two more Goldcrests. Along the stream we noted Goldfinch, Siskin and a Grey wagtail. On the return route we saw another Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Common Buzzard and a field of Common Gulls. Back at CVL there were two female Goosanders. The walk produced a total of 43 species seen by 28 walkers. It was an excellent morning with good conditions underfoot and the country lanes were quiet.
35 members set off on a grey but very mild morning from the car park of the Fleur de Lys in Pucklechurch, soon to be joined by a 36th member, who had cycled from the centre of Bristol. This is always a slightly shorter walk than our usual Tuesday ones so we can be back at the pub in good time for our annual Christmas lunch. While still walking through the village, already on the list were Starling, House Sparrows, Jackdaws, Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, plus a Pied Wagtail. We soon saw Redwings and Fieldfares in abundance and then a group of Meadow Pipits was spotted by our chairman, Ed Drewitt, who was invited to come more often to Tuesday walks! Four Bullfinches on the ridge of a barn roof were quite a find and most people saw at least one. A couple of Goldcrests were heard and, for those of us who can no longer hear them, one obligingly flew over us. A Song Thrush was also heard as we stopped for coffee. It was such a still morning that even as we approached the part of the route that takes us near the M4, there was little motorway noise until we were quite close to it. Very good views of Dunnock and Wren were had in nearby hedgerows and crossing the fruit farm yet more winter thrushes were seen. Altogether 28 species were listed. Thanks to Duncan Gill for leading and Pat for bringing up the rear of such a large group. We were back at the pub as midday was striking and a good meal was had by all, joined by quite a few members who hadn’t taken the pre-meal exercise. After the meal, which had been arranged by Peter Holbrook once again, Ed Drewitt thanked Hazel Wilmott for organising the Tuesday walks and Mark Watson was warmly welcomed as our next organiser, as Hazel is moving away from the area next year.
Twelve members met at the Newbridge Sluice north of the village of North Curry. This was a new location for a Club field meeting on a different part of the Somerset Levels than normally visited. We commenced the walk along the southern bank of the River Tone giving extensive views of the surrounding area. Mixed flocks of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings were feeding in the adjacent fields. The willows and hedges contained Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. The river contained surprisingly few birds although small numbers of Mallards,Teal and Moorhens were seen together with a Little Grebe. We diverted off the bank for a while and stopped at a Wetlands and Willow interpretation Centre which contained a number of interesting information displays about the area, its wildlife and river control measures. We walked round a small adjoining copse and added a few common woodland species. On the return walk we heard a Raven “cronking” as it flew over and a number of Skylarks were seen. The Moor is susceptible to flooding in winter and is known to attract substantial numbers of wildfowl and waders. It would be well worth a visit after prolonged rainfall. Forty-one species were encountered during the morning.
What has not been said about this national resource?! We 22 set out – not for us the duck or goose preservation ponds – but into raw boned and wild, windy bird hides. We had to break ourselves in slowly – the luxury and heating of the Peng observatory was just the job. From behind clear glass we were afforded close views of Bewick Swan, the youths in a pleasing grey plumage with the magnificent adults in almost ‘brilliant white’. The Tufted Duck and Pochard were ducking beneath the surface creating a mad flurry by frantic paddling of webbed feet in their haste to hoover up the last of that morning’s feed. From just outside the window slots of the Rushy hides there were many male and female Pintail. At the back of the ponds a small troop of Teal crept from rush bed to rush bed, so noticeably smaller in comparison to the many Shelduck, and the rotund “lump” of a single, very brown hybrid Ruddy – Cape Shelduck. Moving along to the Martin Smith hide one sharp-eyed watcher spied a Snipe in the grass and on the banks a Black-tailed Godwit feeding to the depth of that strikingly long bill. Along at the Robert Garnett hide we found half a dozen Curlews and the fields full of Greylag Geese, Lapwings, and hiding away at the back by the pollarded willows, a small group of White-fronted geese. At the Holden Tower we saw an aerial swirl of several hundred Golden Plovers, three stately Common Cranes feeding and three Great-Black-backed Gulls asleep on the mud. When everything suddenly got up we knew a raptor would be somewhere and, sure enough, a Peregrine swished past. Along to the Zeiss hide for, we hoped, a Bittern but, alas, none on show. However, our reward was a sharp red billed Water Rail, a ball of feathers that resolved into a Buzzard and away among the Wigeon and Lapwing some Dunlin foraging in the grass. At our penultimate stop – the Kingfisher hide – provided not only the eponymous bird but a Little Grebe and Greenfinch. After a tortuous slog to the South Lake hide only Grey Heron, Cormorant, and Great Crested Grebe could be added to our list. However, with a total of 62 species, not a bad days birding. Thanks to Gordon Youdale for escorting us most of the way, smoothing our entry, and making the morning most rewarding by pointing out some unseen treasures.